(CBS Local) — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced their plan to drastically cut the amount of nicotine found in tobacco cigarettes. The anti-smoking policy, first revealed in 2017, hopes to push the smoking rate in the U.S. to under two percent.
While the FDA can not force cigarette makers to remove all the nicotine from their products, the agency can regulate how much of the highly-addictive ingredient companies put into cigarettes. The new plan is expected to lower the nicotine amount in cigarettes to “minimally or non-addictive levels.”
“Our estimates underscore the tremendous opportunity to save so many lives if we come together and forge a new path forward to combat the overwhelming disease and death caused by cigarettes,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a March 15 statement.
The FDA estimates that tobacco use is responsible for more than 480,000 American deaths each year and costs $300 billion in “direct health care and lost productivity” annually. Federal health officials believe the upcoming regulations will help about five million people to quit smoking within a year of the change.
“The announcement today is potentially the most significant public health step the Food and Drug Administration has taken in decades,” Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said to NPR. “The benefits laid out in this proposal are of such an extraordinary nature that it compels rapid action.”
The FDA added that it’s now seeking outside comments on the proposed regulations, including suggestions for the exact limit on nicotine to be imposed and the possible limiting of menthol in cigarettes as well.